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Blood Feathers

Find out everything you need to know about broken blood feathers.

By Margaret Wissman, DVM
Posted: November 2, 2012, 3:45 p.m. PST

DESCRIPTION OF

Blood feathers (also called pin feathers) still have a waxy sheath covering them. If broken, these new feathers can bleed excessively. The shaft of a blood feather is warm, soft and purplish in color. Feathers tend to grow in symmetrically on the wings and tail, especially the long wing and tail flight feathers. In some cases, blood feathers may be repeatedly injured as they grow in, so they tend to not develop past the blood feather stage, resulting in chronic bleeding.

SYMPTOMS OF

Because they are still growing, blood feathers contain a significant blood supply support the feather growth. Baby birds are developing their first set of feathers, so it is more likely that they might damage one or more blood feathers, resulting in hemorrhage. Blood feathers are normal, growing feathers, and only become problematic if injured, damaged or inadvertently cut during a wing-feather trim.

IMMEDIATE CARE

Normal, growing blood feathers require no special care. If a blood feather is damaged, and the bleeding lasts for more than a few minutes, or if the bleeding appears excessive, you should take your bird to a veterinary clinic immediately. If a wing feather is bleeding, gently and loosely wrap the bird’s wings in a towel or cloth to prevent wing flapping that will cause more bleeding. Direct pressure may be applied to the feather that is bleeding to promote clotting. Ice or a clotting agent may be applied to the portion of the feather that is bleeding as a temporary measure. An avian veterinarian should be consulted in all cases. Keep your bird warm and quiet for transportation to your vet.

LONG-TERM CARE
Cockatiel
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Inc./Courtesy Amy Baggs
If your cockatiel has a night fright, check to make sure it hasn't broken a blood feather.

If a bird continues to develop blood feathers that become damaged, resulting in bleeding, it might become necessary for your avian vet to apply a splint to the area until the feathers have grown out sufficiently and the blood supply has receded. If your bird damages blood feathers due to night frights, keep a night light on for your bird. You may be able to have your avian vet show you how to properly and safely remove a blood feather. Removing a blood feather from a follicle is the best way to stop the bleeding. Holding the bird steady, the injured feather should be grasped with a hemostat or clean pair of pliers, and the feather should be pulled out in the direction of the growth. Once the feather has been extracted from the follicle, pressure should be applied using a clean gauze square until the bleeding ceases. It should be noted that blood feathers should only be pulled out if they are bleeding, as this might result in permanent damage to the follicle. Once pulled out, the follicle should fill with blood that clots. In almost all cases, the follicle will begin developing another new feather immediately, which will become a blood feather until it has grown out sufficiently.

Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

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